Are you teachable?

Originally printed as an editorial in the Christian Science Sentinel

Suppose a handful of senior executives at an insurance company learned that they would be given an opportunity to become Web savvy in order for their company to be more competitive. Up to now they had assumed that computer training was, for them, pointless. They were sales executives. Customer relations skills were what mattered. Then they discovered that their mentors for this training program were a few brash yet technologically brilliant twenty-somethings.

Both parties were uncomfortable with the matchup. The senior executives had no respect for their "know-it-all" mentors, and the mentors thought the executives were living in the past - the predigital era - and had to move into modern times if the company was to remain competitive.

This hypothetical case study, prepared by Harvard Business Review, was put to some educators and business leaders. They were asked who or what had to change for this mentoring program to work. One participant saw the problem as something other than age difference. Another said that better communication was essential. So was greater respect for one another. What the experts didn't spell out, and yet what might have been apparent to many of HBR's readers, was the need for more humility and patience on the part of the executives and the mentors. Both groups needed to become more teachable.

Everyone profits from open-mindedness and being willing to learn from the experience of others. Knowledge and experience are valuable commodities, especially in an information-based economy. And who's to say where, when, or how some useful lesson may come our way or what need it will meet?

Better people skills and technical know-how aren't the only things that teachable listeners and observers stand to gain. One can also garner valuable lessons in unselfishness and generosity. Confidence and poise. Tenderness and patience. Catching a glimpse of such qualities in action is a reminder that there's more going on around us that instructs us and shapes our lives than meets the eye. There are spiritual lessons to learn, ideals to discern and assimilate that refine character, give purpose and resolve, teach how to get along with others, expand the horizon. The source for such qualities is the infinitely intelligent and loving Father-Mother we call God.

In a high-speed world that at times can seem random and purposeless, our heavenly Parent is with us everywhere, revealing purposeful, spiritual qualities and guidance that already belong to us because we are God's children. Our Father-Mother never stops reminding us, in ways that we can grasp, that we are noble, virtuous, loving, spiritual - Godlike.

I'll not forget one such reminder some years ago when I was looking for a change - something new to pursue. Restlessness finally brought me to the point of asking God: "What's missing? What do I need to learn?"

A few days later I was invited to a meeting sponsored by a volunteer organization located over 100 miles away. Reluctantly I agreed to attend. It was later, on my way home, that I realized that meeting had been an answer to my prayers.

The man who conducted the meeting managed the routine as well as the controversial items on the agenda with remarkable poise, patience, respect, and insight. From his friendly morning greeting to his unruffled manner at the end of the long day, his attitude and leadership were exemplary.

As I drove home, I looked back on his example and what I could learn from it. Grace. What I'd seen was an example of grace in action. I realized that was what I should and could express more of in my life. It was a life-lesson that I truly believe came from God.

How many potential learning experiences are coming your way even now? A steady stream of them. God is here, providing care, direction, learning, and teachability. The challenge as well as the opportunity in this hurry-up world is to watch for these new lessons. Expect them.

The ideas in this article are explored more fully in "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures" by Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of the Monitor.

(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Monitor

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